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IGF 2018 - Day 2 - Salle X - WS414 Tackling Internet Disruptions via Multi-stakeholder Advocacy

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Paris, France, from 12 to 14 November 2018. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 

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>> DANIEL O'MAILEY: Welcome, everyone. We are going to go ahead and get started. Apologies for starting a little bit late. The last session ran over. It is a pleasure to be with you here today. This is the panel titled Tackling Internet Disruptions Via Multi-Stakeholder Advocacy. My name is Daniel O'Mailey and I am here representing the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative which has co-sponsored this panel along with the Global Network Initiative who is being represented by my co-moderator, David Sullivan, who is all the way at the end of the platform there.

 

You know, given that the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative is actually a joint project of my organization, the Center for International Media Assistance, the National Democratic Institute, and the Center for International Private Enterprise, and given that GNI is actually also a multi-stakeholder organization that has representation from tech companies and from civil society, we can genuinely say that this is truly a multi-stakeholder panel and really lives up to the IGF ideal.

 

I want to start off talking about, you know, some of the numbers. According to Access Now, in 2017 there were a total of 108 Internet shutdowns. That is in the entire year. Now, in just the first six months of 2018 there were 81. So we are seeing an increase. The problem appears to be getting worse, not better. One of the worst examples was in the Anglophone regions in Cameroon where between January 2017 and March 2018 the Internet was shut down for a total of 230 days, so that is almost 60% of a year. This is a very, very dire situation for the people who live in that region.

 

But what we are here talking about today is about more than just shutdowns because while a shutdown is the most severe form of an Internet disruption, we are seeing that governments are increasingly using other more subtle techniques to disrupt the flow of information on the Internet. That can be anything from a very specific shutdown in a localized specific neighborhood even, but it can also be blocking traffic, Internet traffic, to certain websites or platforms. It can be throttling traffic so that you are slowing traffic so that you can't share images and video, for example. These types of disruptions, which we're also going to be talking about, are oftentimes more subtle and, therefore, even more pernicious because we don't even necessarily - the people who are suffering them don't necessarily know that they're happening.

 

One thing to highlight when we talk about Internet disruptions is we often associate Internet disruptions with authoritarian regimes, right, governments that are shutting down the Internet for political purposes to protect the power, but we also have seen Internet disruptions in democracies. The shutdown tracker of the Software Freedom Law Center, for example, which is based in India, has noted 124 shutdowns and disruptions in 2018 already in India, the world's largest democracy. So I just want to put that out there that what we're talking about really is a global issue that is affecting countries everywhere.

 

And one of the issues with Internet disruptions is that they have negative -- obviously, negative impacts on society because they block the flow of free news and information. This is what we're seeing, especially around election times when these types of disruptions are occurring. They disrupt the ability of citizens to express themselves, to assemble online. They hinder the ability of companies to conduct business, and so they affect the GDP. This is especially true with small and medium enterprises that sometimes -- oftentimes rely on social messaging apps or social messaging platforms to conduct business, and that's impossible when you have these types of disruptions. And they also really challenge strategic infrastructure, education, health care systems.

 

They have a wide variety of impacts across society, and this is really why these types of Internet shutdowns violate some of the principles that organizations like the GNI and the Open Internet for Democracy support. You know, we have the Democratic Principles for an Open Internet, which is the guiding document of the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative, and the GNI has its own principles which the companies that sign on to the initiative must live up to. These are very much in opposition to those. On this panel, we're not going to be talking about numbers and tracking. There are great organizations that are doing that, like Access Now, NetBlocks, UNI, the Software Freedom Law Center in India. Instead, we're going to be talking about this is a challenge that's getting worse. What can we do from a multi-stakeholder perspective to do something about it? We know that it's happening. What can we do?

 

And really, digital rights organizations have been doing a lot in this area, but they can't do it alone, so we need to broaden the conversation. How do we get social media technology platforms and telecommunications companies who are often the primary way that people are accessing the Internet? How do they help inoculate users from these types of disruptions? What mechanisms possibly for enforcement or sanctions would international bodies or Internet governance processes have to pressure governments to keep the Internet open and accessible? So these are some of the questions that we want to talk about on the panel today.

 

We have an excellent panel. The format this is going to be, each participant is going to briefly introduce themselves, their organization, and their work. Then we are going to have a quick roundtable discussion among the panelists that I'll moderate with David, and then we'll throw the session open to the public, and we'll have questions from you, so be prepared with the questions that you want to ask.

 

Now, I would like to -- first of all, we have a special speaker, actually, from -- who is going to be participating remotely from Cameroon. She's from one of the regions where the Internet shutdown has taken place, Kathleen Dongmo, who is an entrepreneur from Cameroon. I am going to see if the remote participation is working and hand it over to Kathleen. She was online just before we started, so, yes, I hope this isn't a disruption. We may be facing one at this moment. What we're going to do while we're waiting to see if we can get her back -- uh-huh. Yeah. So, while we wait, I'm going to actually ask Usama to introduce yourself, and then we'll come back to Kathleen at the end and hopefully she'll be back online by then.

 

>> USAMA HILGI: Okay, thank you. Hello, I'm Usama -- I think she's there.

 

>> MODERATOR: Kathleen, can you hear us? You're on mute. We can't hear you. We still can't hear you. Okay, so we're going to have to go on –- we're going to have to move to Usama while we try and figure out how to get the audio to play from Kathleen, but we'll try and come back to you, okay?

 

>> USAMA: Thank you. I'm Usama Hilgi. Thank you for organizing this very important session because I represent BOLIVI, which is an organization based in Pakistan. We focus on policy and advocacy and research around digital rights, Internet policy, and freedom of expression.

 

I just wanted to talk about network shutdowns in a sense that it's largely been normalized in a lot of societies. For example, each time there is, say, a public holiday or any political rally or protest, it's very normal for, you know, the Minister of Information or the Minister of Interior to announce that, oh, okay, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. tomorrow there will be a network shutdown in these cities, in this area. You will not have mobile phone signals or data connectivity. In that sense, I think it points to a larger problem of just discomfort with technology and just with viewing technology as something that is new, but also something that is easy to control and censor in the old school ways of dictatorships or, say, like monarchies.

 

Just like you mentioned, Pakistan itself is a democratic country. We have had transitions of democratic governments for the past more than a decade now after bouts of military dictatorships. But despite that, the post-9/11 use of security in order to justify, you know, trampling of rights and this whole, like, global trend of what I would call making rights the collateral damage of security has really been normalized. I think in that sense of obviously just civil society and groups or just government groups –- sorry -- companies cannot really make a difference. But what's really important is to, like, work on advocacy that changes this thinking and approach to its technology.

 

For example, I would like to just break this down in three different points. First of all, just the principal of it; secondly, I will talk about the economic impact; and thirdly, just whether it's effective or not. I think just pure research and evidence-based advocacy is what we really need. For example, when we talk about the principle of it is whether is it okay or is it proportional, really proportionate to violate the fundamental rights of, say, access to information and freedom of expression when we shut down networks? For example, the Pakistani Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and the right to information. Right? But when we have a network shutdown, all of that is blocked.

 

But then secondly, when we talk about the economic impact of this is just, again, going back to the new use of technology is how so many businesses and so many start-ups rely on technology. For example, Pakistani students and Pakistani people who are struggling with work in the middle and frictional unemployment. Careem and Uber, ride-hailing apps, are a huge, huge source of income and convenience to both citizens and to those who are looking for employment. But when you have a network shutdown, you have a shutdown of all Uber services. You have a shutdown of all Careem services. So those people are not able to go ahead and earn and people are not able to move around, those especially who can't afford owning a car.

 

Lastly, whether or not this is really effective or not. First of all, I think there's very little evidence as to whether using network shutdowns for security purposes during sensitive times, what is the evidence that this is really an effective way of securing citizens, because that's the excuse that's used. But then secondly, also, how this is so counter-productive, because if you are trying to quell a small protest and you are shutting down networks, you are bringing in more attention to it. What you are doing is you are also creating a sense of panic amongst the public when they can't communicate easily or when they cannot get in touch with family or friends, et cetera, that may be out. What you really end up doing is causing more discomfort and maybe the people that you are trying to silence, in effect, you are amplifying their voice and amplifying the nuisance that they're trying to create through the protest that they're organizing, right, by government-sanctioned network shutdown due to that protest being called in that area.

 

Just talking about principles, economic impact, and practicality, I think this sort of conversation and nuanced interventions from civil society and companies is very important to communicate to the government in order to deal with network shutdowns.

 

>> MODERATOR: Great. Thank you. Patrick?

 

>> PATRICK HESELIOUS: Thank you very much. My name is Patrick Heselious. I'm a lawyer at a company which is a telco in the Nordic and the Baltics. I'm also a board member of the Global Network Initiatives.

 

I work a lot with principles within my company, but I also work with tools, so transparency reports, a tool for our stakeholders to see what type of requests we get. I work with human rights impact assessments and I work within the GNI. I have contributed to the work of a one-pager on the arguments exactly against network shutdowns. I will talk more about that.

 

I'll start talking about a form, a form to fill in for my colleagues in local companies when they receive what we call unconventional requests because then the company needs to decide and assess what this -- not only if the request from the government is legal or not, but if there is a freedom of expression implication how to interpret the requests more narrowly, if there are business implications, if there is risks to personnel, to health and safety, and then how to do leverage. One way of doing leverage, again, is to be a member of the Global Network Initiative where we have joint interests with other companies, with NGOs, academics, and investors to push back when there are such unconventional requests as to network shutdowns. What we have done, Taylor Company, is to publish this form, this form for assessments of requests and then escalation within our company. That form is available on our homepage.

 

Going back to one of the other tools is this one-pager published by the GNI on the GNI homepage. Companies as well as governments consist of people, and people are lazy. We need checklists, right? Tools. At the GNI session at another IGF in Guadalajara in Mexico there was a brainstorming. What can we do to provide in very simple words all of these good arguments against network shutdowns? So maybe there is someone in the vicinity of the person who takes the decision to shut down the network who has these good arguments available and can hand it over or has studied them and can explain them to the decision-maker?

 

In addition, of course, we all have these long reports from the -- we have the U.N. guiding principles, of course. We have thorough reports from Shift and from BSR and from the Council of Europe. We have the Splendid Report from David Kay. But these reports will not be read at the moment of truth when someone is to take a decision within an hour or less to shut down or not. So that's why we published this one-pager, and it's available in, I think, nine languages, Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. The idea is that this one-pager should be available at arm-length. If all of us going away from this IGF can think about where to make this one-pager available at arm-length, where an Internet shutdown decision could be made, that might be a way forward to use this tool. Thanks.

 

>> MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, Patrick. Ashna?

 

>> ASHNA:  Thank you, Daniel. My name is Ashna Kalamara. I work with CIPESA, which is the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa. We are based out of Kampala in Uganda.

 

With regards to Internet disruptions and multi-stakeholder approach to push back against them, it's important to understand what the African ICT or Internet ecosystem is like. Approximately, slightly less than a quarter of the population has access to the Internet. There are more mobile money accounts than bank accounts, which is extremely significant when it comes to financial inclusion. For mobile telecom operators and ISPs, about 20% to 40% of their topline is from data revenue. The sector is contributing significantly to GDP in terms of taxes and employment. For SMEs, like Daniel mentioned, it's fueling competitiveness, efficiency, and reduced transaction costs. For the informal sector, it's also supporting casual jobs, again, like Daniel said. And from a human rights perspective, it's significant for democracy, good governance, and social accountability, as well as transparency.

 

Of the numerous statistics that Daniel has shared, I'm sure Africa is leading in terms of being the one that is disrupting or shutting down the Internet as it's doing traditionally in terms of clamping down on CSOs and critical voices, shutting them down. The disruptions that we have seen in the continent are varied. I think the only common denominator is that they are around elections, protests, and exams, but their approach and scope and style is different. Some have been complete social media shutdowns, no access to Facebook or Twitter, WhatsApp. There have been shutdowns of the entire Internet in its entirety, SMS-based shutdowns, mobile money shutdowns. These have been country-wide, affecting entire populations. In the case of Cameroon, it was regional, again, as was mentioned earlier on. In Gabon, the disruptions were curfew-based, so Internet was available certain times of the day and then shut down later on.

 

For us at CIPESA, as part of our wider work for ICT policy and practice that's progressive and inclusive, we recognize that beyond the human rights impact of these disruptions, there are social and economic impacts and these are not demonstrated or documented as much as they should given the significance of the sector like I mentioned earlier on. Last year we worked on a framework for calculating the cost of disruptions from a sub-Saharan perspective. There were previous reports by Deloitte and Brookings, but they didn't necessarily take into account the informal sector of much of the ICT ecosystem on the continent and also the nature of the disruptions. Like I mentioned, some were geographic-based, some were up-based. Our study tried to fill that gap.

 

Since its launch, that framework has been very vital in informing campaigns and advocacy against disruptions. It's demonstrated both actual loss for countries like Ethiopia and Cameroon that have -- for Ethiopia, reforms –- but that have been legendary in terms of disruptions, but also potential shutdowns for countries like Kenya that are leading in terms of ICT on the continent. That demonstrated loss or potential loss, we hope, has helped to rethink decisions of disruptions. I think in Kenya and Ghana we saw official proclamations of shutting down the Internet during the elections that were held last year and before that, but ultimately the Internet wasn't shut down, which is a great thing.

 

The automation of our framework by NetBlocks has also been significant in terms of supporting litigation and collaboration in research, but also ensuring for the not necessarily mathematically adept activists or pushback stakeholders, they're able to get data to support coverage and reporting automatically. Again, like Daniel mentioned, only in terms of demonstrating the impact of these disruptions has been instrumental in working with civil society. So ultimately the framework and the work that we've done around disruptions has helped strengthen pushback beyond activists and CSOs or think tanks like ourselves to include private sector and technologies. So, yeah, multistakeholder.

 

>> MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, Ashna.

 

>> SHIHANG: Thank you so much, Daniel. It's a pleasure to be here. I'm greatly impressed by our panel as well because I learned a lot from their views, from different angles, different regional angles, and also statistics as well as practice now.

 

Actually, you know, UNESCO has done a World Trends report this year. We actually observed the same trend, worrying trend that essentially a significant increase of all forms of blocking, filtering Internet shutdowns, and, yeah, at the global level. It can be really worrying because it has so many multiple implications. Certainly it has massive economic and social consequences. And if you look at this through a UNESCO position, as we have just presented half an hour ago in the same room, we are advocating Internet universality worldwide. We are advocating Internet to be human rights-based, to be open, to be accessible by all, to be driven by all the stakeholders. You see, it's just impacting every dimension therefor.

 

Certainly, first of all, it's a huge access barrier to everybody. Secondly, on the human rights, certainly it's really violating, undermining freedom of expression, undermining privacy and data protection. It's undermining freedom association and undermining –- eventually it is the weakening the civil society. Also, I would like to point out that the journalism and media, they are also very sensitive to this because imagine how Internet is being so essential for journalism to have a source to verify the news and to protect their daily work. That would really be such a barrier for journalism to work, to play the role for the democratic society and to inform civil society.

 

On the openness, I mean, beyond the human rights implications, we should also look at the cost of this unnecessary and not proportional Internet shutdown activity. Imagine that even a shutdown takes place in one single country and the rest of the world wouldn't be able to access any information to this country and to know about its people from our side. It's literally fragmenting the Internet as a global public resource. It really has such a profound impact not only to the country per se but also really to the global digital community. So we are talking about how we handle this. Certainly, again, I think everybody -- all stakeholders have a shared responsibility for this. That is why we are advocating multi-stakeholder approach in the Internet governance as a one force, pillar of Internet universality framework.

 

Imagine the role of Internet IGOs, international organization like UNESCO. We have a role here to play. We need to hold our member states accountable, and also to advocate international standards which have already been established to be necessary and proportional, and human rights standards as set up in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also U.N. Human Rights Council has issued several resolutions and reports to tackle on this issue. Certainly national governments should be engaged certainly on this. And the private sector and the technical communities, we are also here to find out a technical solution. Again, I think the civil societies and academia should never be present in this process.

 

When you talk about a multi-stakeholder approach, it tends to be generalized at some point, but we have also done very insightful research to map the good practice of multi-stakeholderism at the national level to see how they help advance the human rights at national level. For example, in the past years we have seen increasing adoption of multi-stakeholder approach at different continents. It's not limited here in Europe, but it really has gone beyond the border of the continent. Like in Kenya many years ago, we have seen they have institutionalized the multi-stakeholder international policymaking process. It's called kickternet. It's a network of all stakeholders to formulate the policy for the country.

 

And in Asia, we knew that some years ago in South Korea when there was a constitutional issue related to the real name registration, and eventually it was replaced by a privacy and data protection policy thanks to the multi-stakeholder participation. Of course, in Brazil, Mark Seville is a pioneer in human rights law thanks to the multi-stakeholder mechanism in the country. I do feel very optimistic in terms of using, strengthening the multi-stakeholder approach in tackling as well the Internet disruption issues at this moment.

 

>> MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, Shihang. I believe that we're going to try again to connect with Kathleen. We'll see if her audio is working now. We'll give it just a moment. Hello. We can see you, Kathleen, but we can't hear you, unfortunately. Is there any other way that we could –- yeah -- just through WhatsApp and we'll hold it up to a microphone? Yeah. Okay. We're going to try that.

 

You know, I'm going to just start posing a question that we're going to -- I'm going to throw to the whole group after Kathleen talks, but just to give our speakers a chance to think about it, because one of the things, Usama, that you mentioned was the need for more evidence to counter this. And when you first said that, I was thinking, well, you know, we have some really great initiatives that we have mentioned, NetBlocks, Uni, Access Now, et cetera. But, really, the type of evidence that you were talking about was a different type of evidence, right? In some ways, we're really making strides in trying to track this and seeing where it's happening, but it's on the narrative side in terms of evidence of why it doesn't work and trying to convince the people who are doing this that they shouldn't do it, you know? That their intent isn't being -- it's not succeeding with these attempts. I want to -- the question is essentially what types of evidence, what would we look for, where do we need to go, what do we need to add to the base of evidence that we have that can facilitate more of the kind of multi-stakeholder, different parties coming together? That's going to be the question that I'm going to pose to you.

 

I'm hoping that we can get Kathleen on the phone. Can you unmute yourself? Kathleen, we think that you might be muted.

 

>> SPEAKER: She's not muted.

 

>> MODERATOR: She's not muted. Okay.

 

>> SPEAKER: It is the level of microphone on her side.

 

>> MODERATOR: Okay.

 

>> SPEAKER: She needs simply to put your microphone level higher, Kathleen. If you go to the audio menu, there you can -- in the audio connection, you can just put your volume for your microphone higher.

 

>> MODERATOR: Okay.

 

>> SPEAKER: If you could do that, we could hear you because you are well connected to audio.

 

>> MODERATOR: And we are calling you right now on your cell phone.

 

>> SPEAKER: I mean, we can hear a very low sound from her side.

 

>> KATHLEEN: Hello? Hello? Hello?

 

>> MODERATOR: Go ahead.

 

>> KATHLEEN:  Hello. Okay. Hello, everybody. Goodness me. This is how we defenders have to defend, you know, our ability to use resources in these parts, but thank you for your patience.

 

My name is Kathleen. I am a digital rights defender. I am also a businesswoman, so I own two consultant businesses. That actually leads me into really -- it's how we are affected by Internet shutdown in these parts, especially in Cameroon. I will delve into two angles, but I'm sure that, you know, we're running out of time, but I really want to touch on the legislative and the economic part of how multi-stakeholder actors can actually play in ensuring that we keep the Internet open.

 

Cameroon is luckier with being a monarchy. In recent times, especially with the elections that just went by, we have –- the world must have realized that our government is one that is keen on being seen as legitimate. Therefore, from the late '90s right up until now, they have enacted policy that was essentially made to stifle, defend, and to hurt freedoms, especially freedom of speech online. For a government and for governments that are keen on being seen as legitimate, I believe that one of the most essential things that multi-stakeholders as ourselves must begin to do is to attack the creation of such legislation or act to create, to fight to create our own legislation like in Nigeria where there is currently a digital rights and freedom bill that has been passed by the House of Reps and the Senate and is currently waiting for the president's ascent. Activists are also pushing that through.

 

You can see the case of Uganda where the excise duty act is being used to tax the services. In the case of Cameroon where you have the cyber-crime and cyber-criminality 2010 law and the antiterrorism 2014 law, which are just broad legislation to capture their own ability to stifle the participants. I think that one of the most important things that stakeholders need to start to look at is legislation. If we are working against governments that are keen on being seen as legitimate, and I will give you another example being what we call in Cameroon the transparency debacle or the transparency gate where even though Transparency International kept staying we did not send observers to your election, the government and the spokespeople kept saying, especially the state media, kept saying these observers are from Transparency International. We need the voices and the action and the tools and resources from every single actor to attack legislation. That's one.

 

The second one for us is especially the economic impact. Like my fellow activist from Uganda has said before, CIPESA has done this really wonderful report that really delves into the dynamics of Internet shutdowns and the impact in Africa in our own context. It goes beyond job GDP. It goes right into health services. It goes right into small businesses and the impact that that has on a daily basis. For example, in Cameroon, costs according to CIPESA, it costs about $1.6 million a day if you shut down the Internet. I think that it's important for us to look at how we can make the case to our government to tell them, you know what, you're creating policy to encourage a vibrant Internet digital economy, but you are also hurting yourself in the process by shutting down the Internet. I think, you know, if we're able to form coalitions –- I am actually a part of –- I am a member of something called Net Rights which is a PanAfrican-based coalition of defenders of the Internet, of digital freedoms. I think it's important for us to begin to work towards creating not just the tools but getting our partners to bring forth these solutions.

 

The last one I wanted to mention was the regional aspects. We're very -- we have a tendency of going further than we should. I think regional organizations have to be brought on board as well in order to get their own impact. Next door, Nigeria has an impact immediately. Cameroon is getting into a crisis. So, yes.

 

>> MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, Kathleen. It was worth the technical trouble that we did to get you speaking. Those are really great interventions.

 

I'm going to now ask Usama and then anyone else afterwards can jump in to respond to the question that I asked, but I also think we can add to that. Some of the solutions that Kathleen talked about in terms of legislation and if we need to work on kind of regional multi-stakeholder efforts in order to prompt norms that will prevent governments from taking these actions

 

>> USAMA HILGI: Thank you, Daniel. And, yes, when I spoke of evidence –- so, yes, first we have evidence of the impact of network shutdowns and how that makes obviously life, the economy, and generally just, you know, rights scenario very difficult. But at the same time, there also needs to be some sense or form of accountability of the governments that are ordering these shutdowns. For example, are they really achieving the objective that they claim, you know, for the sake of security or shutting down networks in this area? But what is the evidence that this network shutdown is what makes us more secure? Is it like other practical steps that the government needs to take or, like, difficult decisions that the government needs to make in order to mitigate the impact that they're trying to, you know, really achieve?

 

Then, secondly, there needs to be greater transparency. For example, has there been incidents in the past where because of the availability of, say, mobile phone or Internet networks, there was a security incident that makes it more, you know, say proportional for the government to go ahead with network shutdowns in sensitive times. I think it's this sort of evidence that civil society and companies should demand of the government that really uses as, like, some sort of, like, divine intervention that they're bringing to us in order to make it secure.

 

>> SHIHANG: I would like to think about it in another way as well. By looking at how we operationalize multi-stakeholder approach and to tackle the issue as you have just said that you need evidence and need transparency, that's exactly why we need this sort of inclusive multi-stakeholder participation. Without inclusive actors in the process, you wouldn't be able to really find the evidence to give a comprehensive assessment implication. It wouldn't have a transparent process. That's why we are really promoting this approach. In terms of how really we can get it, I mean, it's not a cosmetic discussion. It's not just to show sort of correctness, but having shown the good practice and the challenges we have observed, the national state to adopt this approach here. I mean, in our work, we have certainly identified some values, norms. We should have this mainstreamed to the approach, like inclusive, like it to be diverse, collaborative and transparent and eco-footing from different actors and also to be relevant, et cetera.

 

The other thing I would like to share, our recent work about how you can measure the state call of the multi-stakeholder position in the national level because, again, we need the evidence-based approach to approach the multi-stakeholder approach. It means that, first of all, we should look at and assess what kind of legal and regulatory framework in the country to encourage and allow for the multi-stakeholder approach to withstand this principle that has been integrated and institutionalized by the government at national level. It's like in Kenya, they already have it in their national framework to -- you have to have this process set up before you make a policy.

 

And, secondly, at national level, I mean, we are developing indicators to measure this law and also to measure the national level, the extent of participation. There can be many, many dimensions to look at it, to examine. For example, are there active associations of the professionals in the country? Imagine if those technical people, engineers, and the different -- they should, first of all, have shown up into association. They have a voice among themselves before they can really have impact to the policy process. Imagine if the governments actively involve, encouraging the different professional and associations to be in the process. There are also many dimensions we have taken stock from past experience. Not only at national level.

 

Again, I want to stress the global impact of any national laws, actions in the Internet. We also measure the international dimensions of multi-stakeholder participation, to what extent national governments and national stakeholders actively participated in the global discussion. For example, the Internet IGF here, it can be a very interesting indicator. If you look at the data to what extent every country participates in this forum and to what extent they are representative from different stakeholder, from government to private sector to civil society, they are involved here to contribute to the global discussion, to share their national experiences. I think we have a very scientific and also evidence-based approach to really advance the multi-stakeholder holder approach at the national level.

 

>> MODERATOR: Great. Thank you. Another thing that I'm really pleased that we have a representative from a telecommunications company, and I think it really shows how this kind of movement against Internet shutdowns is kind of broadening to other stake holders, and I was just wondering what the perspective of a telecommunications company is in terms of trying to build these connections with other stakeholders, because, obviously, it affects the bottom line of the telecommunications company when you have to deal with these special requests from companies, but what do you think the role of a telecommunications company would ideally be in this type of process?

 

>> PATRICK: Well, what multi-stakeholder process within and context within the GNI provides to Taylor Company is, first, leverage where it's difficult for a single operator in a country to say, hey, don't force us to shut down our subscribers and our business. We can build leverage within the GNI, in the arguments, but also in the specific issue that is happening.

 

The other one, of course, is shared learning where operators and Internet companies are present in various geographies around the world but meet the very same problems. How did you deal with that there and then we learn from each other?

 

>> MODERATOR: Thanks. Great. And I'm going to briefly open this up to questions. If people have -- I'm sure you actually have questions, so if we could go ahead and just take -- we'll take three questions, and then pass it over to the panel. We will then have them respond. Does anyone have any questions? Okay, I see two hands over here. One hand right here. Okay. Please introduce yourself and your organization and country.

 

>> INEZ: I'm Inez. I am one of the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative fellows. I guess what I want to say, and Usama did mention it, sometimes not having an Internet shutdown can be a problem itself. Like we did, for example, a series of interviews with activists in several countries. And activists in Oaxaca, Mexico, they did mention that they have rallies and protests that didn't have Internet shutdowns and it was seen as a mass surveillance. Because, like during rallies and protests, for activists to show their environment, who are they talking to, what are they saying and messages is more dangerous than not having Internet at all. I'm not saying by any means we should have Internet shutdowns or Internet is bad, but I think the way we tackle the Internet shutdowns we should not keep them out from our mind that we need to tackle it with protection of privacy and how to tackle the process through the surveillance.

 

>> MODERATOR: Thank you.

 

>> SPEAKER: Hello. My name is [indiscernible 00:51:51] and I'm from an organization called Media Matters for Democracy in Pakistan.

 

I've seen that some countries have gone into litigation against these network shutdowns. I was interested to know if there's any network shutdown or any litigation going on in Africa, in your country, Ashna. I do know that there's litigation going on in Pakistan. But how effective is it? Do you think it has been effective? Do you think that the litigation against those network shutdowns has been effective because I do know that we had limited success in Pakistan but the government has been shutting down Internet on the basis of a mere legal state. How do you look at it?

 

>> HANNA: Hello. My name is Hannah Maclan. I'm here with the NetBlocks group which was mentioned as an organization helping measure Internet disruptions and online censorship.

 

First, I would just like to say it's great to see such a diverse panel with organizations that we've worked with all over the world. NetBlocks firmly believes, in order to have this type of conversation and create these types of solutions, we really need to have a diverse set of voices approaching it.

 

I was wondering if some of the panelists could share some of the successes of having a multi-stakeholder approach to tackling Internet shutdowns regionally. NetBlocks, what we've tried to do is also have more of a creative approach to try to create some impact in terms of tackling these shutdowns. We're working with CIPESA, for example, on our tool called Cost which looks at the economic impact of these shutdowns, which, I believe, was mentioned by a couple of the panelists. We're trying to create our multi-stakeholder approach that way, and it would be interesting to see how the other panelists and organizations are also doing that as well. Thank you.

 

>> MODERATOR: Great. Thank you. We have three questions here. The first is the relationship between mass surveillance and how we deal with that in terms of Internet. When we are thinking about shutdowns, what happens in the case when it's safer for activists to not be surveilled? Then we have the second question about litigation. Specifically, is there any litigation in Africa or also is there any litigation perhaps dealing with the telecommunications companies or in other places that has that been effective or is that not a venue for this type of action? And then the third is thinking about some successes, and maybe, you know, whatever kind of level of success you would judge that as.

 

>> SHIHANG: Very tough questions, all of them. I will just share a few thoughts from me. First on the mass surveillance. It has been an issue for so many years. It's a matter of privacy. That's why UNESCO has taken the new task since 2015. We used to defend free expression as our core mandate. But when the privacy became so crucial and the surveillance issue came up in 2013, we realized that you have to defend all the human rights in an indivisible way, in a comprehensive framework because all the rights are converged.

 

Basically, if you don't have safety and privacy and security from –- refrain from being surveilled, I mean, nobody can really freely express perhaps any expression on the Internet. That's why from this angle we are really taking the stand to protect both free expression and privacy. I think they all relate to what we are talking today. And that's a complexity here as well because then the surveillance in many cases were conducted for the concern of national security, I mean, with many other reasons whether legitimate or maybe less. So we need to really have a broader framework to look at other rights and the trade-offs, and also go beyond the rights and how they are really impacting Internet, the Internet as a whole. You don't want to kill the Internet by defending certain rights. Eventually you are losing this Internet platform for human society. That's all we are looking at with a broader framework, universality framework. Also, that's why because it is complex. We think multi-stakeholderism is really a direction we are going to.

 

You asked me about good practice. We have seen some good practice in the past to handle the human rights-related issues. But in terms of Internet shutdown, I am now aware of the recent developments. I heard that in maybe our remote participation in Cameroon, I heard that some initiatives are there to try to get multiple participation from different actors to work towards that direction. But on the other hand, my observation, my personal observation is the discussion, very often you find it is missing from certain actors. Some key actors can be completely missing from the discussion. Sometimes it is the governments. I saw a report about IGF saying that it seems there is less interest of the government to participate in this forum. Sometimes you see the private sector is not included. Again, in my working context, I found in some international organizations events I saw there are not so many participation from the civil society. I would say I see more challenges and gaps. That is actually why the process is still not perfect. Far from that. We need to strengthen it so that we can have our good practice maybe in the near future to tackle this Internet shutdown issue.

 

>> ASHNA: To respond to the question on litigation and its effectiveness. Broadly around digital rights or challenging government policies and practices that curtail freedom of expression and privacy and other rights on the continent. Litigation has proved to be a useful tool in challenging those practices. There have been cases initiated in Uganda, Cameroon, and, I believe, Gabon as well against shutdowns. Unfortunately, like many legal processes, it's frustrating. It's long. I believe in the case for Cameroon, there's been deliberate efforts to stall or frustrate the process, court papers going missing and dates constantly being adjourned. I think the case for Uganda that was heard yesterday, I think from two years ago when it was filed, it's been adjourned until February of next year. The process is proving really frustrating and there haven't been any successes specific to disruptions. But for other rights online, there's been successes recorded in Gabon and in Burundi where there's been challenges against provisions on freedom of expression, online defamation, and criminal libel. Those have at least set precedent and there are opportunities for stakeholders to work together during some of these cases where amicus have been filed jointly with civil society and private sector and those being backed up by wider advocacy efforts. There is potential. But specifically to disruptions, there haven't been any successes yet.

 

>> MODERATOR: First of all, thanks, everybody, for joining us late in the day today. I know we're close to out of time. I just want to mention a few things responding to the questions that have been posed.

 

I think as Patrick mentioned, we first started talking about this issue at the IGF in a workshop in 2016 Guadalajara. And at that time, I think there was -- there were gaps in the understanding between how NGOs and civil society perceived network shutdowns and how companies perceived how NGOs and other stakeholders were thinking about shutdowns. We've been able to sort of raise the level of understanding amongst stakeholders who are really committed to this issue and to foster collaboration.

 

We created this one-pager and now we have it in many different translations. There was initial economic research that was done in other organizations, like CIPESA have now taken that and improved upon it and given us more detailed regional-specific research that's out there. As GNI co-organized together with UNESCO a colloquium on elections and ICT that looked at the issue of disruptions and shutdowns in February of this past year. Colleagues from Internet Frontier working together with colleagues in Cameroon were able to adapt that kind of colloquium and organize it at the local level in Cameroon earlier this year.

 

There's been real successes and examples of, you know, concrete collaboration between stakeholders on this issue within the Internet policy and Internet governance and digital rights space that is very encouraging and I think gives us a good base to build from. But I think when we think about how else do we get this issue in front of policymakers in governments who are the ones making decisions to order a disruption or a shutdown, we need to go beyond just the ICT sector, and there I think we have a lot more work to do.

 

Just to share one rather sobering anecdote. So GNI, together with the Business and Human Rights Resource Center, recognized this need to try to reach out to stakeholders in other industries, for example, who are affected by Internet shutdowns and disruptions. We wrote to, I think, 20 multi-national companies from sectors like the extracted industry and banking and agriculture that were operating in Cameroon last year to seek their assistance working with us on this issue and to try to get the types of companies involved. We didn't get a single reply. We have a lot of work to do.

 

But I think the type of collaboration that we've been able to engender within the digital rights community is something that we can expand across because this kind of disruption is so disproportionate in its impact. It affects all of society. You know, the impacts go well beyond what we have in our one-pager, and I think that collectively there's a lot more that we can do to bring in other groups. I'm excited to work with organizations who work, for example, with local chambers of commerce, with local media development organizations and others, including many of the groups active in the Open Internet Coalition to try to take this forward. I know we're close to time or maybe even over time, but it would be great to hear if our panelists have any last ideas in terms of solutions.

 

>> SHIHANG: Multi-stakeholderism.

 

>> USAMA: Yes. Thank you. Just I think a lot of the questions have been dealt with, but I think your point about mass surveillance is very, very important and that's something that we see a lot during protests. It's because, A, media is heavily censored in a lot of countries, including in Pakistan, so social media is the only avenue that people have for dissent and political speech. But then either that is disrupted, or if it's not disrupted, then there's heavy surveillance, so that does become a huge issue. That's something that we as an organization work on with human rights defenders as we do detailed digital security trainings with them in order to try for equip them with tools so that they can protect their digital presence as much as possible. Obviously, there's no foolproof way.

 

Just talking about litigation. Like you mentioned in Pakistan, there's been cases where the government gets a stay order, and two weeks ago we've had network shutdowns even though the high court had ordered a suspension of that. And just hitting back at multi-stakeholder successes. So, yes, I think NetBlocks does amazing work, and I think we collaborated also on a few projects. So I don't have a particular example on network shutdowns, but in Pakistan in the past, for example, in multi-stakeholder campaign, we wrote to companies that were selling surveillance technology to the Pakistani government and we got around five companies to commit to not sell that technology to the government. I think GNI played a very helpful role in that campaign, so there is some sort of success.

 

Secondly, in Pakistan when you are trying to campaign against the cyber-crime bill, what we saw was that we were able to get through to policymakers a lot better when we went as what we called a joint action committee, so that included the IT business community, which is pretty huge in Pakistan, as well as telecom operators, civil society, and academia and media. I think all of us working together were able -- all of us were able to get a seat in, say, the national assembly committees and IT and in other -- in the Senate as well. I think that way you have a better chance of being heard rather than acting alone. I think even for network disruptions, that certainly is the way to go forward. Thank you.

 

>> PATRICK: Just to add one thing. The issue that you raised here on safety of people locally, of course, also very much applies to colleagues, employees of the telco locally. Therefore, it has proven to be very important to have policy within the group, which says that if there is an unconventional request, for example, for shutdowns locally, that the local company is required to escalate that within the group. That way you take away the pressure from the people, employees that are just like other people locally and might be harassed or under pressure or in a very difficult position.

 

>> ASHNA: In terms of how to move forward, let's follow-up with solutions. I think maintaining the multi-stakeholder approach is important, but we need to get innovative. I think in as much as shutdowns are increasingly prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa, the governments have also become innovative. We're seeing more economic-based efforts to access and use of the Internet, social media taxes. It costs 5 cents a day to use WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter in Uganda. There are mobile money transaction taxes imposed on sending and receiving money. Online content regulations in Tanzania require registration and voice over IP levies in Zambia. Obviously those scenarios in addition to disruptions are a huge barrier to access and affordability and human rights, but also have significant economic implications and potential of ICT on the continent. Avenues and approaches that capture economic impact as well as human rights aspects and encourage cooperation are extremely vital. I think one of the ones that we at CIPESA are increasingly exploring and want to push more to activists is the use of the UPR mechanism to push more on Internet freedom issues since it's more focused on traditional human rights.

 

>> MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, Ashna.  And thank you, all the panelists. Unfortunately, for technical reasons, we're not going to be able to hear from Kathleen, although we very, very much appreciated her comments. They were very useful.

 

I just want to -- I want to echo what David said, and I think that the GNI can take pride in a lot of the work that they have done around trying to mobilize this and get different groups on the same page and trying to develop greater leverage. And I wanted to mention that the Open Internet for Democracy project, we're building an advocacy playbook that some of the fellows here have been working on, and one of the scenarios that we want to empower democracy activists to be able to do is to respond to Internet disruptions and Internet shutdowns. This is being -- it's in the kind of iteration process of being created, so we would invite everyone who is interested to contact me or contact someone else on the project because we would like to kind of collect some of this knowledge and get it in the hands of people who aren't in these kind of digital rights spaces who may not know the best practices when a shutdown happens in their country.

 

I think that summing up, you know, we've come a long way. We have great measurement tools. There's a greater understanding of some of the impacts of these disruptions, but there's a long way to go, especially about increasing this to get it beyond the digital rights and beyond the ICT sector. Without further ado, thank you, everyone, for staying this late and we really appreciate it. Thank you to the IGF staff and the transcribers. Thank you.

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